Mary H. Palmer, PhD, RNC, FAAN, AGSF

Helen W. & Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging
Gerontology, Research, Women’s Health


The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
School of Nursing
Carrington Hall, CB #7460
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7460

Office: 533

Currently Accepting PhD Students

Mary Happel Palmer, RN,C, PhD, FAAN, AGSF

Dr. Palmer is the Helen W. and Thomas L. Umphlet Distinguished Professor in Aging in the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Nursing. She has conducted interdisciplinary research on the prevalence, incidence, and risk factors for and correlates of urinary incontinence in adults. In the mid-1990s, she created a conceptual framework that addressed primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention of urinary incontinence, which has become widely adopted. Her research with working women found that they encounter environmental barriers and engage in behaviors that may compromise bladder health. As a result of this work, she has collaborated with Dr. Kefang Wang from Shandong University, China in developing a research instrument: Women’s Toileting Behavior’s Scale (TB-WEB). Dr. Palmer’s current research investigates the meaning of bladder health to women across the life span and confirmed that women engage in different behaviors dependent on the environment and their continence status. Her research also confirms findings of other researchers, that help-seeking behavior for urinary incontinence and other lower urinary tract symptoms (LUTS) is low among affected adults, especially women. Dr. Palmer has authored numerous papers and book chapters, and two award-winning books on urinary continence.

Dr. Palmer is an Associate Editor of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society and serves on the Editorial Boards of Geriatric Nursing and Faculty of 1000 Medicine. Dr. Palmer also serves on the Advisory Council of the NIH Office of Women’s Health. She is the Vice-Chair of the Public Education Committee of the American Geriatrics Society. Dr. Palmer mentors Visiting International Scholars and she has been an international visiting scholar in Australia, Korea, and China. Dr. Palmer served two terms on the International Continence Society Ethics Committee and she was a member of the 5th International Consultation on Incontinence’s Committee on Incontinence in the Frail Elderly.

Dr. Palmer received her B.S.N. and M.S. degrees from the University of Maryland at Baltimore, her Ph.D. from The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health (now The Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health), and an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Goddard College. Upon completion of her doctoral program, she received her postdoctoral research training at the Behavioral Sciences Laboratory of the Gerontology Research Center, National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health. She is a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, Gerontological Society of America, the American Geriatrics Society, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Institute for the Arts and Humanities Academic Leadership Program.

Recent Honors & Awards


  • Faculty of 1000 Medicine: Faculty of the Year Award 2014 for Urology


  • Carolina Women’s Health Research Faculty Scholar Award, Fall 2014
  • Nominated for Faculty Award for Excellence in Mentorship and Education, Doctoral Student Organization, UNC, School of Nursing.
  • Appointed Vice-Chair, Public Education Committee, American Geriatrics Society 2014-2016


  • Senior Scientist, Institute on Aging, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill


  • Fellow, American Geriatrics Society


  • National Association for Continence and American Geriatrics Society Rodney Appell Continence Care Champion Award
  • Outstanding Service, Public Education Committee, American Geriatrics Society


  • The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Institute of Arts and Humanities, Academic Leadership Program, Fellow


Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms

Bladder Health, Geriatric Education

Interdisciplinary & Interprofessional Post-Graduate Education

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For a full PubMed listing. []


Publications: 2014 to present

Palmer, M.H., Marquez, C., Li, Y, Hawkins, S., Smith, F. & Busby-Whitehead, J. (in press). A Feasibility Study for a Post-Hospital Intervention for Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms in Adults with Heart Failure. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing.

DeGagne, J, So, A., Wu, B. Palmer, M.H., McConnell, E. (in press). The effect of a urinary incontinence self-management program for older women in South Korea: A pilot study. International Journal of Nursing Sciences.

Park, J. & Palmer, M.H. (2015). Factors associated with incomplete emptying in older women who have overactive bladder symptoms. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 63(7), 1426-31. doi: 10.1111/jgs.13474.
DeGagne, J, Park, S., So, A., Wu, B. Palmer, M.H. , McConnell, E. (2015). A urinary incontinence continuing education online course for community health nurses in South Korea. Journal of Continuing Education in Nursing. 46(4):171-178. doi:10.3928/00220124-201150320-02.

Palmer, M.H.. & Newman, D. K. (2015). Women’s toileting behaviors: An online survey of female advanced practice providers. International Journal of Clinical Practice, 69(4):429-35. doi: 10.1111/ijcp.12592.

Song, L., Rini, C., Deal, A. Nielsen, M, Kinneer, P., Teal, M., Johnson, D., Dunn, M. Mark, B. & Palmer, M.H. (2015) Improving couples’ quality of life through a web-based couple-oriented prostate cancer education intervention. Oncology Nurses Forum, 42(2):183-92. doi: 10.1188/15.ONF.183-192.

Park, S., De Gagne, J. So, A. & Palmer, M.H. (2015) Knowledge, Attitudes, Beliefs, and Practices in Registered Nurses and Care Aids about Urinary Incontinence in Korean Nursing Homes: A Cross-Sectional Survey. Journal of Wound, Ostomy and Continence Nursing 42(2), 183-189, doi: 10.1097/WON.0000000000000095.

Hong, G-R., Park, J. & Palmer, M.H. (2014). Activities of daily living and cognitive status: Associations with urinary incontinence. International Journal of Urological Nursing 8(3), 130-6.

Park, J., Lavelle, J. & Palmer, M.H. (2014). Voiding dysfunction in older women with overactive bladder symptoms: a comparison of urodynamic parameters between women with normal and elevated post-void residual urine. Neurourology & Urodynamics. doi: 10.1002/nau.22689.

Wu, C., Wang, K., Sun, T., Xu, D. & Palmer, M.H. (2014). Predicting help-seeking intention of women with urinary incontinence in Jinan, China: A theory of planned behavior model. Journal of Clinical Nursing. May 10. doi: 10.1111/jocn.12623.

Wagg, A., Gibson, W., Hermanns, R., Kuchel, G., Johnson, T. Palmer, M.H. & Szonyi, G. (2014). Urinary incontinence in frail elderly persons: Report from the 5th International Consultation on Incontinence. Neurourology & Urodynamics. Apr 2. doi: 10.1002/nau.22602.

Palmer, M.H., Marquez, C., Kline, K., Morris, E. & Carlson, B. (2014). Hydrate for Health. Listening to Older Adults’ Need for Information. Journal of Gerontological Nursing. 40(10):24-30. doi: 10.3928/00989134-20140721-02. PMID: 25275782.

Carlson, B. & Palmer, M.H. (2014). Nocturia in older adults. Implications for nursing practice and aging in place. Nursing Clinics of North America, 49(2), 233-250. doi: 10.1016/j.cnur.2014.02.009.